Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Goodbye and God Speed

A funeral Mass will be celebrated on Long Island this morning for my dear friend Danny Lehne Foley. And while I'm just heartsick at being unable to attend (was unaware of the arrangements until it was too late to arrange transportation to New York) I'd like to pay tribute to Danny here on my blog in whatever small way I can.

Danny and I met in 1997 when I became involved in the Alliance for Tolerance and Freedom, a local organization promoting tolerance and inclusion in an area not particularly known for either. As a fellow board member, Danny worked tirelessly on GLBT issues, fundraising events, as well as the organization's annual Stop the Hate rally in Lancaster, and the Progressive Voice awards event. He was also an advocate for the homeless, collecting clothing and blankets for the Crispus Attucks Community Center, where he volunteered as much as he was able, given his many health issues.

When I met him, Danny wore a beeper around his neck. A diabetic since childhood, and on dialysis, he was on a donor list and waiting for a kidney transplant. The beeper went off soon after, and Danny received a new kidney and pancreas. What followed was months of complications, rejection, and many hospital stays, but Danny faced it all bravely, and put his energy into counseling other transplant patients. When he finally came home to George, his partner of almost 30 years, and his beloved dogs Sadie and Molly, he had just a few short months of feeling well before he developed an infection on the bone of his left foot. Unable to treat the infection with antibiotics, they took Danny's leg below the knee. It was a long and painful recovery and rehabilitation, but Danny remained positive throughout it all, even cracking jokes when he sensed that strangers were uncomfortable with his prosthetic leg.

Shortly after this ordeal, George had a stroke, and was hospitalized for several weeks, before dying in Danny's arms. And although as the only child of two only children, George left no family, and Danny made all the arrangements (a beautiful service at the UU church) in his grief, Danny had to go to court for permission to bury George's ashes. An ordeal that even the conservative judge deemed an outrage.

Further to Danny's physical challenges, there were financial challenges, as Danny subsisted on a small social security disability pension and medicare benefits. He lived in a small mobile home and shopped at discount grocery outlets, yet never once complained about his situation.

Over the next several years, he faced a myriad of other health issues; heart and stomach trouble, a second infection, the amputation of several toes and eventually his right foot as well. Then a couple of years ago, Danny's new kidney began to fail and he went back on dialysis, followed by heart bypass surgery just a few months ago.

Through it all, Danny never became angry, or had an unkind word to say about anyone. He faced these challenges - any one of which would send most of us reeling - with courage and determination. I remember one particular time shortly after his first amputation, when John and I invited Danny to Thanksgiving dinner. He declined, because he wanted to serve dinner at the homeless shelter instead.

Danny Lehne Foley was without a doubt the kindest, gentlest, and bravest soul I've ever known, and it was a privilege to count him as a friend. He inspired everyone he met to be a better person, to lift up their community, to practice compassion and kindness, and to face life's challenges with dignity and grace. When I think of Danny, I think of William Henry Channing's words....

To live content with small means;
To seek elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion;
To be worthy , not respectable, and wealthy, not rich;
To study hard, think quietly,
Talk gently,
Act frankly;
To listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart;
To bear all cheerfully,
Do all bravely,
Await occasions,
Hurry never.
In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony.

Goodbye and God Speed, my friend.


Amy C. Moreno said...

What a wonderful tribute to a man who sounds like he lived the words of the poem out daily. I am so sorry for your loss and for the fact that you can't make it to the funeral. I am sure he was blessed to be called your friend.

Debbie said...

What a beautiful Eulogy for your dear friend. xxx

Rabbit (aka Micael Chadwick) said...

I don't know you, or Danny, but this brought tears to my eyes. It's a shame there are not more people in this world like Danny - and more friends like you to honour them.

Bless you much - and thank you for sharing.

- Rabbit

sassypackrat said...

Sorry for the loss of such a wonderful man and a dear friend. Your tribute to him is lovely.

Enchanted Productions by Joyce Stahl said...

Carolee...that was beautiful! My heart felt sympathies go out to you and all of Danny's friends and family! He was an amazing person!

Possible Impossibilities Studio said...

I'm sure Danny is smiling and appreciative of your heartfelt tribute.

Love and Blessings.


Lee said...

What a wonderful tribute to your friend. Sharing your loss with others is a wonderful way to express your sorrow at losing such a terrific person.
Thank you.

pinkglitterfae said...

I'm so sorry you lost such a beautiful friend.
What an amazing man he was, it's such a shame he is gone so soon.
Peace and blessings

Kate said...

What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul. I am so sorry for your loss, Carolee.

Mems said...

What a great tribute to your dear friend and what an amazing person Danny was. Truly an inspiration. My sympathies to you and all of Danny's friends and family.


Sherry said...

Beautiful words for a beautiful man. I am so sorry I never knew him. He certainly did his best to make this world a better place to live. So sorry for the loss of your friend.

Emerald Window said...

What a lovely tribute. With all his misfortunes, he was still a fortunate fellow with friends like you.

Cher "Into Creating" said...

Carolee, I'm sorry for the loss of your friend, Danny. It sounds like he lived his life exactly as he wanted to live it, despite his health issues! What really got to me was hearing that he had to endure going to court to get permission to bury George's ashes. Nobody who was a life partner should have to go through all of that, and it's something that truly has to be changed!
My sincere condolences, Cher

Lynn @ Painting Thyme Needfuls said...

What an AMAZING tribute to an AMAZING man.My sympathies to you for having lost such a wonderful friend and human being.I pray Danny now enjoys eternal life where he knows no pain and is free of the challenges he faced with such dignity in his wordly life.

Kingfisher Farm said...

I too am sorry for your loss. It seems the world lost a lovely person, but heaven gained a most worthy angel.

softinthehead said...

Wonderful words Carolee.....Danny is at peace now, no more pain. Such a gentle soul.

L'Aura said...

Thank you Carolee. After my divorce and move to Colorado, I lost touch with everyone, and tried to find Danny on Facebook a couple of times. I so appreciate you letting me know, and the wonderful Eulogy. He definately was a blessing to the world! Laura

Zan Asha said...

Oh Carolee, my heart is breaking for you! I couldn't help but cry over such wonderful words. The world needs more wonderful people like Danny! I am so terribly sorry about the loss of your friend. If there is anything we can do, you have many friends to support you at this sad time. What beautiful and eloquent words, I am sure he would have loved them!

Griselda said...

Surely Danny is smiling and thinking you are the best friend ever, I am sure he is also with his beloved having a wonderful life away from all the miserable times.
Bright Blessings to all you do.

Suzie said...

Carolee, I'm so saddened by your loss, and he loss of everyone who was touched by your friend's kindness. He was indeed a rare and valuable gem.

I have this deep feeling that you brought as much into his life, and he did in yours. That you were kindred spirits, meant to be friends.

Your love and compassion pours out of your beautiful tribute to Danny, and may the memories of your good times together temper the sadness in your heart.

Marie Shepard said...

Carolee, my heart hurts for you. If everyone had even a shadow of Danny's compassion, the world would be a beautiful place. Sending love your way - sorry to have missed you at Ghoultide. Family/car complications as usual :) Love, Marie

Anonymous said...

Wow, people like this teach us the rest of us a great deal x

Theres just life said...

That was a wonderful tribute to a wonderful person. I never knew your friend but I miss him now as well. He was very fortunate to have touched so many lives and have friends such as you.
Thinking of you and all of Danny's friends during this hard time.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Carolee, The days are getting more difficult and only a week has passed. I am deeply saddened for not remembering to contact you again. That is far from my typical agenda. Please forgive me. Danny so loved you. Never did we speak that you weren't mentioned. It was at the hospital where we first met, a sweet endearing person who gives me comfort and caring are you. You have the face of an angel and the heart of a grand friend. Your tribute is gracefully appreciated and welcomed and will stay with my family and me forever. Regards, Kathleen Foley Cronin

LYNDY WARD said...

Beautiful Tribute Carolee. Sounds like many will miss Danny's unconditional love...

Sending Heartfelt Prayers To His Family & Dear Friends Like You Carolee,

karen said...

thank you for this wonderful tribute

Shirley Stock / New Providence PA said...

Member of the Gift of Life Transplant Support Group remember him fondly and share in your grief. He was truly a gentle spirit who earned his wings.